Access Canberra handles complaints where individuals or companies may have broken the law. These include:
- Planning Act 2023
- Construction Occupations (Licensing) Act 2004
- operational acts such as the Building Act 2004 and the Heritage Act 2004.
They also handle complaints about the conduct of regulated individuals, businesses or industries.
You can contact Access Canberra for help with:
Some complaints can be complex and may take time to assess. Access Canberra will keep you up to date about the progress of your complaint. They will assess all regulatory complaints against the Access Canberra accountability commitment.
Sometimes disputes might happen between:
- trade contractors
- designers and
This might happen for a few reasons, like:
- incorrect or insufficient documentation
- poor communication
- poor quality of work
- delays in supply and construction
- lack of knowledge or experience in the building process.
Communication is important when you engage in the building process. Before you start the process, make sure you choose the right builder for you. You can ask them for details of previous clients and research about how they work. This might include understanding:
- how they communicate
- the product or service they provide and
- the quality of the service they will deliver.
You can also get your independent legal advice before you sign a contract. This helps to protect your rights in case things do go wrong.
Tips to help avoid disputes
There are things you can do to help stop disputes:
- make sure the people you engage have the skills, knowledge and experience for the work you need. Also check that they’re licensed or registered, if applicable.
- get all relevant details about the type of work, timeframes and costs in writing for all parties.
- keep a record of any discussions about changes to the plans or service, or other contract variations in writing for all parties.
- be clear of the roles, responsibilities, rights and obligations of everyone involved. Make sure to record those in the contract.
- keep communication clear, update all parties on the progress of the project, and manage expectations on both sides.
Issues in dispute
If it looks like you may end up in a dispute, don’t wait, get help early. There are options available if negotiations between you and your builder break down and work is not completed. Resolving the dispute early may result in a better outcome.
As soon as you identify an issue or have a concern, raise this with your builder in writing. Your builder should take steps to address your concerns. If the issues aren't resolved and are about building or planning compliance, and construction is underway, talk to your building certifier. You can also consider making a complaint to Access Canberra.
The building certifier is appointed by the land owner and not the builder. They work to meet the building and planning laws.
If you have concerns about your contract, like payments, quality of inclusions, or communication, contact:
If you need to lodge a complaint, you can:
- fill out the Access Canberra feedback form
- call Access Canberra on 13 22 81
- post your complaint to:
- Access Canberra Customer Services
GPO Box 158 Canberra ACT 2601
- Access Canberra Customer Services
Responding to complaints
Access Canberra aims to provide the right regulatory response for the right situation. This means they will use a risk-based compliance approach to focus resources accordingly. They will prioritise issues where there is a risk of harm, unsafe practices or misconduct. They do this if the community, workers and the environment are most at risk.
They will look into a range of considerations, including:
- conduct that causes harm or risk to life, health or the environment
- conduct that is systemic and may harm the community and/or the environment
- conduct that is a blatant disregard for the law.
Read more about Access Canberra's accountability commitment and compliance frameworks.
Assessing construction, development and Crown lease complaints
Access Canberra's Resolution and Support team will first assess your complaint. They may send your complaint to the Rapid Regulatory Response team or the Building Investigations team if needed. They'll let you know if they send your complaint to one of these teams for further inquiry. Your complaint may also be referred to another area of government if it is considered that the matter would be best dealt with by that agency. For example, if there has been damage to a protected tree as a result of construction work, the matter may be referred to the Tree Protection team in Transport Canberra and City Services Directorate.
They'll also update you on significant milestones and when they finalise your complaint. Some specific details and actions of the investigation won't be disclosed to you. This is a law under the Information Privacy Act 2014 to:
- protect the private information of individuals involved, and
- avoid prejudice of potential litigation.
The team will aim to do a preliminary assessment of your complaint within 5 working days from when they receive it. This includes inspecting the site that the complaint is about. During this time, Access Canberra inspectors aim to understand if there is a breach that needs investigation. You will get an update on this assessment.
If there's an immediate risk to public safety, they will assess within 24 hours of receiving the complaint.
Not all complaints are formally investigated. If a complaint needs an investigation, it doesn't mean it will end with enforcement action. There are tools available that Access Canberra can use to meet compliance.
Read more about these tools in the Building and construction services compliance framework.
Complaints about construction
If you need to make a complaint about a construction practitioner, you should first try to resolve the issue with them. If you have a written contract with the company or person who did the work, you can exercise your rights under the contract. If this doesn't work, you can submit a complaint to Access Canberra, at any time.
When you make a complaint, provide any additional information relevant to your situation. E.g. if the complaint is about the structural integrity of a building, provide a report from a qualified structural engineer with the specific issues and breaches.
Access Canberra assesses complaints about:
- an unlicensed person doing work that requires a licence
- someone pretending to be licensed
- someone doing building work without required approvals
- a person or company not meeting the Building Code of Australia
- an unacceptable standard of building work
- a breach of relevant legislation.
Access Canberra may assess complaints relating to consumer transactions, and fit and finish issues. Read more information about these matters at Fair Trading.
Development and Crown lease complaints
These types of complaints come from people impacted by the actions of owners and occupiers on adjoining blocks of land.
You should first attempt to resolve the issue directly with the other party. The Conflict Resolution Service is a free service for most disputes. If this doesn't work, you may submit a complaint to Access Canberra, at any time.
Access Canberra will assess complaints about:
- failing to meet a lease provision
- unlawful development
- building work that doesn’t have a development approval
- not keeping a leasehold clean. This means that more than 30% of the undeveloped portions of the block, that are visible from the public domain, are covered in items. Long grass and overgrown foliage don't count as an unclean leasehold and aren't calculated as part of the 30%).
You can also make a complaint about:
- streets, public places and nature strips. This includes damage to trees, littering or damage to public land. Contact Transport Canberra and City Services.
- health issues. This includes rotting garbage, harbour for vermin or stagnant water. Contact ACT Health.
- dangerous substances. This includes exposure to asbestos, removal of asbestos or exposure to other hazardous substances. Contact Worksafe ACT.
- fire hazards. This includes long grass, overgrown vegetation or flammable substances. Contact ACT Emergency Services Agency.
- planning processes. This includes the conduct, processes or actions of staff who manage development assessments, environmental impact assessments, the leasehold system, deeds, or land surveying and mapping. See the Planning Delivery Division Complaints Policy [340.0 KB].
Lodge a complaint
If you need to lodge a complaint, you can:
Complaints about planning processes and conduct
Complaints about the conduct, processes or actions of EPSDD staff who manage development assessments, environmental impact assessments, the leasehold system, deeds, or land surveying and mapping are handled under the Planning Delivery Division Complaints Policy [340.0 KB].
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